Traumatic experience - tricked into giving away password
- Dr. Sunil Kothari, New Delhi
e-mail: sunilkothari1933@gmail.com

October 19, 2007

I am sharing with Narthaki readers/members, my horrible experience of losing my password and the consequent harassment and trauma. What is called 'phishing' in technical terms, the Yahoo look-alike announcement comes to your e-mail that if you do not give all details including your password, your Yahoo account will be closed. To fool you, they also put a box at the end to verify the letters like Z X, number 1, 3, draw a zigzag line. You identify those words and numbers and your verification is complete. But by then you have given away your password, which they immediately change and have access to all your e-mail contacts, private information including bank accounts etc.

Then you can not access your e-mail as the thief by then has already changed your password and you cannot inform any one from your Yahoo account. That is what happened to me on 30th September 2007.

From 1st October I could not access my e-mail any more with my password. I tried to contact Yahoo for this matter. They have a strict policy. They ask you your secret question which you give when registering your Yahoo e-mail. E.g. name of your school or any secret question you prefer. I had registered in 2001 and did not keep track of it. And I do not remember the question which they tell me is: What is the name of your favourite restaurant? I do not remember it.

So now Yahoo security service tells me that unless your reply tallies with the answer you gave, we cannot help you. The matter has been reported and I have filed FIR with cyber- crime police in New Delhi. Luckily they were helpful. They will forward this to Interpol. Unfortunately Yahoo is not under jurisdiction of India. Unless USA and Yahoo cooperate they cannot track that e-mail making rounds in my name to all my contacts.

This is a racket from Nigeria. The thief of my password sends letter as follows to one and all of my contacts.

"Hi,
I am sorry I did not inform you that I am attending a conference on Racism, HIV/AIDS at a short notice in Lagos, Nigeria. I have lost my passport, money. Please help me. Send money in dollars, whatever you can. I have not taken food for few days ..." and all such lies... and signs Sunil bhai, so my friends can be misled.

French dancer Dominique Delorme from Paris was tricked into sending Euro 225 which the thief asks to send through Western Union Bank and gives instructions as to how to send money, giving code number etc. If you do not read the e-mail carefully and get carried away that Dr. Sunil Kothari is stranded in Lagos, Nigeria and out of sheer sympathy reply to him, that fellow, fools you further as you do not have any way of finding out if he is the real Sunil Kothari stranded in Lagos. He has removed my resident phone and cell number which used to appear under Sunil bhai with my New Delhi address 94, Asiad Village, New Delhi 110049.
Now he sends e-mails minus the telephone numbers.

Some dancers who had my cell number 98107 48029 called me and were saved from sending money. Lata Pada from Toronto sent and called me and in time was saved from being duped. She at once reported to Western Union Bank to stop payment. Similarly Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas was duped but called me on my cell and was saved. Geeta Raj from Florida sent money and lost it. That crook writes: "I shall return the money once I am back" and so on. Many friends of mine saw through this racket, so one should guard oneself from being gullible to some sob stories.

When I write e-mails, I do not start with Hi!
Also I do not attend conferences in Lagos for Racism. I attend Dance conferences. The language of that letter also revealed that this was a hoax. That thief sent e-mail through bharatanatyam_dancers@yahoogroups.com and many dancers who knew I am in India in New Delhi called me and saw through the hoax. Bharatanatyam dancer Namita Bodaji sent a warning through bharatanatyam_dancers@yahoogroups.com that she had spoken to me at Delhi and I was safe and this mail was a hoax. Therefore many dancers were saved from being duped.

Narthaki.com took this up seriously and carried the warning on the homepage and also sent out a warning message to everybody on their e-mail list. Many dancers world over verified this news and my monthly program in Narthaki. Christel Stevens from Washington verified and wrote to me on my new e-mail id sunilkothari1933@gmail.com thanks to the Narthaki announcement. Anandavalli from Sydney was worried and wanted to send me money. But she too got the news through Narthaki.

The tragedy is that Yahoo is not under our Indian jurisdiction. Therefore unless Yahoo cooperates, this thief cannot be traced nor can sunilkothari1933@yahoo.com be blocked. Since I am unable to reply to Yahoo's queries like the name of the favourite restaurant, they will not accept my explanation even when I have sent them the hoax letters of this thief, how he asks for money through Western Union Bank and all his tricks to unsuspecting friends of mine to fool them into sending money. Several called me from New York, London, Australia, and Europe and informed others.

I am grateful to all dancers world over who have shown such concern and I am overwhelmed. Their concern has been so genuine that I consider myself lucky to have such well-wishers round the world. I convey my thanks to all of them.

In order to caution all, I am writing this article. Cyber crime and Interpol have been very helpful, but they say that unless USA and Yahoo will cooperate it will go on and on. There is no way to break this scam. This is unfortunate. I feel bad that someone will be duped because this thief has been continuously sending e-mails to one and all, again and again. And my fear is that unguardedly someone will be a victim, thinking I am stranded somewhere in Nigeria and send money.

Please delete my old id sunilkothari1933@yahoo.com from your e-mail address list permanently, SPAM it, so that you will not receive that hoax e-mail in future. And do not ever reply to such hoax e-mails. Never part with your password.
Please write to my new id sunilkothari1933@gmail.com as I have now lost all contacts and e-mail ids after my id has been hacked into.

Narthaki's timely help has been of immense value and it has helped my morale. My heartfelt appreciation for Narthaki's crucial role in this matter. I have written this article to caution all. I am one of you in the dance community. It has happened to me and can happen to any one of us. And the consequences are traumatic. For the last 15 days, I am round the clock on the computer sending e-mails and informing friends wherever I can and whoever's e-mail id I could obtain from friends.

Spread the word and inform as many people as possible and delete such e-mails whenever you receive it. SPAM such mails. Never rush into sending money; verify with common friends. Be careful.


Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and critic.